Now is a suitable time for the Homeland Union to take care of its unity, seek a new core message and perhaps – a new chairman. Such was the view of political scientist Virgis Valentinavičius talking to LRT.lt.
Virgis Valentinavičius, Gabrielius Landsbergis
© DELFI montažas

“Based on my understanding the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) has two options. Either the chairman goes down on the road of greater independence and we see a clear and critical evaluation of the results of the TS-LKD campaign, where the chairman participates or a principal necessity to change chairperson arises. The situation is complicated because there is no clear replacement,” spoke V. Valentinavičius.

In the TS-LKD chairman elections in spring 2017, the new head of the party will be elected not for two years as before, but for four years. Few have doubts that the party will be left with Gabrielius Landsbergis for another term.

Such a perspective may not satisfy some party members who increasingly disagree with Landsbergis and his supporters and wanted to form a coalition government with the “Peasants”. This group which challenges G. Landsbergis and his entourage in some areas is fairly diverse. It includes politicians of the Christian Democrat wing, as well as some party veterans not related to the Christian Democrats such as Audronius Ažubalis, Stasys Šedbaras and Vytautas Juozapaitis.
After the elections the majority of these politicians signed a document requesting to discuss the possibilities of forming a governing coalition with the Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union (LPGU). Among the signatories we find Audronius Ažubalis, Paulius Saudargas, Vytautas Juozapaitis, Kazys Starkevičius, Valentinas Stundys, Žygimantas Pavilionis, Laurynas Kasčiūnas and Agnė Bilotaitė.

If G. Landsbergis wins the party chairman elections in spring, he would also be leading the party in the next Seimas elections. It is likely that in such a case the prospects for his opponents within the party to receive high electoral roll positions are fairly low. Will this lead these politicians to seek radical solutions? Perhaps even initiating a fracture in the party? Would they seek to establish their own party or would they, say, adhere to the “Peasants” whose leaders have mentioned such a possibility in private discussions?

V. Valentinavičius – TS-LKD has two options

Mykolas Romeris University (MRU) docent and former advisor to Andrius Kubilius Virgis Valentinavičius states that the weakness of G. Landsbergis’ leadership is revealed by an unwillingness to admit mistakes.

“Based on my understanding the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) has two options. Either the chairman goes down on the road of greater independence and we see a clear and critical evaluation of the results of the TS-LKD campaign, where the chairman participates or a principal necessity to change chairperson arises. The situation is complicated because there is no clear replacement,” spoke V. Valentinavičius.

In his words the party is in a situation where it received fewer mandates after being in the opposition than after governing through a difficult crisis and a severe austerity policy.
The MRU docent doubts that the potential for fracture in the party is realistic. Quite the contrary, during the crisis the TS-LKD is experiencing due to the poor electoral results, there is a possibility for working on fundamental party cohesion and finding a candidate for the chairman elections who would unify the party and change its core message. For now none of that is to be seen however.

With LRT.lt inquiring whether G. Landsbergis is not the person who could unify the party, V. Valentinavičius answered that “It could be G. Landsbergis, if he principally admitted that what the party entered the elections with was not appealing to voters. Today we hear in Seimas that G. Landsbergis brings up a plan for Lithuania. Continues to, mechanically. But that plan for Lithuania was viewed fairly critically by Lithuanian voters, it is reflected by the results after all. If the current chairman was capable of admitting mistakes and seeking new ideas – why not, he could stay. But the question is, can he do it?” V. Valentinavičius told LRT.lt.

Analysts – Christian Democrats at a dead end

Analyst for the Lietuvos Rytas newspaper Vytautas Bruveris states that it appears that tempers have cooled down in the TS-LKD. “It appears that there is some sort of ceasefire. This is displayed by the TS-LKD fraction prefect elections where Ž. Pavilionis was not proposed as a candidate though I think he had ambitions and intent to challenge G. Landsbergis. But as far as I understand he calculated his chances. People were simply not ready to engage in open combat right there because it would be an obvious declaration of war.

I do not know if that is it. Perhaps a certain role was played by circumstances, with Ž. Pavilionis either from inexperience or excessive ambition rushing and flinging public accusations to the party leadership. I think that it also worsened the situation, chasing off many potential allies,” spoke Bruveris.

The analyst notes that while the divison between the two wings of the party did not turn into a serious conflict, it is not gone. The main issues is that the party was left without power and with an even lesser number of mandates than in the last term, while the party’s future is uncertain.
“I think that being hung in the opposition for another four years would negatively impact party atmosphere. The closer the party chairman election, the more talk there will be that G. Landsbergis needs to be replaced. It is obvious that the atmosphere is getting heated, but the opposing camp does not have a more suitable and weightier alternative to Landsbergis. Who could it be? Ž. Pavilionis? I am cautious about his prospects. For now it is rather doubtful that he could become the leader of the whole party and later – all of national politics,” V. Bruveris told LRT.lt.

According to V. Bruveris it is also unlikely that the Christian Democrats could split off and join another party. “I believe they understand that splitting off would be suicidal for both the separatists and those who remain in the party of origin. What would the Christian Democrats do after joining the “Peasants”? Receive a hearing or two? Of course it is nothing new to see the Christian Democrats sell the party for a post. In its time the young Christian Democrat generation sold their party to the Conservatives,” reminded V. Bruveris.

He guesses that it is more likely that G. Landsbergis will remain as party chairman, but the tension and conflict between the two wings will remain. “That the conflict within the party is preserved does not mean it has been snuffed out. Quite the contrary – preserved conflicts typically have the tendency to accumulate in explosive power,” thinks Bruveris.

Political analyst Virginijus Savukynas says that if G. Landsbergis is elected TS-LKD chairman again, he will establish himself in the party for the long term. “Much depends on how the election proceeds, civilly or not. There could be much emotion and discontent. As we know the election where Irena Degutienė faced Andrius Kubilius left much residue for both sides. An acute campaign within the party could be the factor which would display that the two forces within the party cannot coexist,” V. Savukynas told LRT.lt.

Meanwhile fracturing, Savukynas says, can appear attractive initially, but it could result in a number of problems.

“Where is Conservative separatist Gediminas Vagnorius now? We can also recall the Civic Democratic Party of Viktoras Muntianas as well. No-one remembers it. Separations are not good prospects though there is much mutual accusation in the Conservative party right now. Accusing of excessive liberalism, the Christian Democrats urge to return to core values. Thinking of political perspectives, it is natural that if the Christian Democrat wing loses, they shouldn’t expect good placement in the party electoral roll,” summarised V. Savukynas.

P. Saudargas – would changing the chairperson change anything?

Conservative P. Saudargas, having made great efforts to support the 2008 merger between the Homeland Union (TS) and the Lithuanian Christian Democrats (LKD) reminds that the merger agreement has a section noting that with a TS representative becoming party chairman, the first deputy has to be from LKD. Since then during every party chairman election the LKD raise their own candidate.

“I believe that in this case as well, the LKD will have its candidate. Whether its own or someone they back. This question has definitely not been discussed in any format in either the LKD management or council, or conference. No candidacy has been discussed or raised so far,” the politician told LRT.lt.

According to Saudargas after New Years the members of the party will gather and discuss with the party chairman, hear out what he proposes. “Would a different chairman have been better or worse for the Christian Democrats? I wouldn’t raise the question of chairmanship. Every group is only as strong as its members are strong and active. History shows that we can work constructively with any chairman, regardless of whether we backed them or not. Andrius Kubilius led the party for 8 years, the party didn’t break. That means that we can move forward together,” assured Saudargas.

Meanwhile Conservative L. Kasčiūnas believes that the question of party chairmanship is premature and that for now it is important to focus on work. “There have always been alternatives, options. Now let us focus on work. Everything depends on the people in the fraction. On their work, their ability to submit legislation, defend our ideas and make them manifest, on their participation in debates. Everything is in our hands. Both with G. Landsbergis or any other chairman. I have no doubt that in most questions we will find agreement,” commented Kasčiūnas.

With LRT.lt inquring whether this means that the Christian Democrats have made peace with Landsbergis’ continued chairmanship, Kasčiūnas answered that “It is time to work now. We have to work and strengthen our value positions. I believe that we are too involved in party games, we have to get out of them. I am tired of these games and want to focus on the political process. We will review the electoral results. We will have a look at how the regions view the situation.”

Sees no conflict

Though the start of November was marked by fierce discussions in the Conservative party, whether it should join a coalition with the Peasant Greens, with those seeking the coalition being labelled renegades, the Christian Democrats do not emphasise this any longer.

“I have not seen any sort of conflict. No personal conflicts either. Only occasional opinions appear in the media. Our party has both people thinking in Christian Democrat terms and Liberal terms. Differences of opinion are not a bad thing because it fosters discussion and a search for compromise. Conflicts of interest and personal attacks are bad,” summarised P. Saudargas.
Both Saudargas and Kasčiūnas assured they had no concerns over the Christian Democrat positions in the electoral roll dropping if G. Landsbergis becomes party chairman for another term.
“Positions in our party electoral roll are not dictated. We have a democratic rating process, the entire party rates candidates. Every party member has the right to come vote, on the basis of this list only minimal changes are made with the agreement of the council. Positions in the list reflect the individual activity of the community member, their political weight. The roll is not composed behind closed doors,” stressed Saudargas.

L. Kasčiūnas also expressed trust in the chairman remaining democratic in the rating process. “The chairman can have a right to slightly adjust the list, but only slightly. Usually chairmen do not use this right to any great extent. It shows their commitment to democracy and allows party members to decide,” L. Kasčiūnas told LRT.lt.

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